The Ghosts of My Running Past

Here I am at 37,000ft. I am on my way back from New York to Glasgow via Iceland. The entire plane is snoring around me. Well, it appears that way as Caelan is snoring loud enough for each and every person on the flight. For a pint-sized four year old boy he packs a fine punch in the snoring front. I am oddly proud of that. The guy in front may not share my views. 

As is custom, I cannot sleep on a plane. Never have been able to do that whole forty winks thing most people can. I wish I could, but I can’t. I need to be lying down in the foetal position to be able to get into slumber. As it is, I guess I might as well bash some words out. 

If you haven’t switched off after that laboured intro, let me take you on a journey. I am going to share with you my five biggest mistakes. The things that have helped me become slightly better as a runner but things I wish I had learnt from much earlier. Why am I sharing? Well, in the hope that it reaffirms what I should be doing but also helps you a tiny bit in your own running.

Speedwork is hard ’cause it is meant to be
I took me eons to appreciate this. I used to think going out and running 10k slightly harder than I ran 10 miles was speedwork. I didn’t appreciate speedwork was when you involuntarily snottered over yourself as you careered around a track at breakneck speed. 60 seconds could seem a lifetime (no jokes here guys…) but that minute x8, x9, x10 or more has much more impact on my late race strength than all those mid-paced plods could ever do. Don’t scrimp on your speedwork, ever. 

Hills are your friend
Hills, damn hills. Some call them speedwork in disguise. That is like calling Michael McIntyre a ‘comedian’ – you know some people think that it is true but it isn’t really. You see, hills work different muscles and teach you to run much more efficiently. At least in my experience they do. My routes were planned to avoid hills. I’d sneak down to the canal and do 20 milers out and back to make sure I had limited time spent climbing. Hell, there are even a bunch of hills around my way named after running mates who also hate them. But, in the last couple of years I have grown really fond of the ups. Now, I intentionally go up hills and track my monthly climbing with the same vigour as I do my miles. My favourite Pyllon prescribed sessions are Hills, sometimes as much as multiple 1 kilometre repeats. Brutal but rewarding. 

Put polluted fuel in and the engine will not run smoothly
This has been my hardest fight in the last few years. Wotsits, Topics, Haribos, Crunchies, McCoys and all other crap were part of my daily eating. I mean every single day. If you are deadly serious about getting fit and performing at your best this is an area where we can all win on. Swapping out the sugary cereal for nice porridge, or nuts for crisps and so on will have an unbelievable impact on your running. I ate my first ever salad only about 1 year ago. I kid you not. Prior to that it was pizza, crisps, sweets and junk. I could get away with it as I ran a lot. Though, you see, I wasn’t getting away with it and I didn’t even notice. Starting to sort out my diet has been as big a performance improver as speedwork. I still have loads to do here but it is gonna be worth the effort. 

Prevention is better than the cure
Stretching is for pussies, and not the meowing kind. That’s what I used to say. In 2013 Louise got me a voucher for a sports massage treatment for my  birthday. What did I need with that? I was running 30 miles a week and not an issue. Only I found out I had the flexibility of an NCP car park attendant who’d been told he was allowed to be a dick. The physio told me I was about 5 years older than I should be in the bending stakes. He put me on a routine of 6 or 7 stretches which I quickly grew, adapted and shaped to my needs. Since then, I have been introduced to some serious mobility exercises and routines which are absolutely critical in allowing me to train consistently day after day. And consistency is apparently key… Little and often works for me. It is now a habit for me to do some sort of stretching and/or mobility every day. You should too. Just 10-15 mins a day could make a massive difference. 

Shoe choices are personal and vital
I ran the Edinburgh marathon once in a pair of $40 cdn Skechers, way back before Skechers were into running. I’d picked them up in Toronto. They had soles that were harder than Phil and Grant put together. They were quintessential fashion trainers. No, they were sneakers! I ended up with feet that looked like they had been through a cheese-grater, backwards and forwards, and I was in agony for days after. Although it felt like months at the time. I swore after that to get checked for shoes and get the right kind. It was Asics Nimbus Gel I ended up with. About £100 of pronation curers. What a difference they made. I experimented a lot after that and found my way to Hokas and I can honestly say they play a massive part in my recovery and efficiency. I wish I had gotten right fitting shoes earlier. I really do. That doesn’t mean buying a pair of cheap runners on the ‘net cause my mate with goblin feet uses them. Hit a store, get fitted and be thankful for the presence of such professional and knowledgable people on our high street. 

I guess the summary is simple; get good footwear, eat well, look after your body and don’t scrimp on the hills or speedwork. Could have saved you a lot of reading if I had started with this, eh?  

Brooklyn Bridge Park, NYC

9 replies to “The Ghosts of My Running Past

  1. Thanks James 2 years ago I could not run 500yds now I am over 5 miles. The trainer advice is something I just found out and where I live is full of hills which I will now embrace instead of dread. Thanks for the advice-Kath

  2. I have always found people miss out the benefit of hills on the way down. The up seems to be all consuming – but sometimes once at the top you should go hell for leather downhill, that was one of my younger speed sessions Cory hill down to the road at the Canal near Dullater. Or from viewing point on the Tak down to Kilsyth. In later years I got a Garmin &can still record sub 5min miles on the steep downhill.
    It gets you used to fast leg turn over & toughens up your quads.

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